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famous food of japan

10 Famous Food of Japan You Must Taste

Washoku, or 和食, the local food of Japan, has evolved over centuries and is greatly celebrated as a part of the international gourmet scene. The cuisine consists of diverse Japanese dishes that are primarily seasonal. Of late, people from different regions worldwide have shown a growing interest in this cuisine as it is known for being healthy. Traditional Japanese cuisine is also famous due to the novelty of the super-fresh dishes and the fusion of heritage with modern ethos. To top it off, the dishes are presented aesthetically, tantalising the taste buds of food lovers worldwide.

Exciting gastronomical choices await you with a mixture of regional and seasonal food items, be it Japanese street food or a seven-course dinner at a posh Japanese restaurant. Some have the touch of royalty, while some are readily available at local cheap chain shops. More so, there are restaurants themed around Ninja and robots, a few specialising in a single dish and others serving a range of authentic Nihon cuisines.

Whether you are visiting Japan or wish to tuck into the rich ingredients in flavoursome Japanese cuisine at a restaurant in your locality, here’s a list of the top ten must-try foods from the Land of the Rising Sun.

10 Must-Taste Japanese Dishes

  • Sushi - The Quintessential Food of Japan
  • Shabu Shabu- The Dish to Enjoy With Friends
  • Gyoza - The Taste of Japanese Dumpling
  • Tofu - Healthy Vegetarian Alternative
  • Tempura - Crispy Crunchy Bites
  • Yakitori - Kebabs from Japan
  • Mochi - Perfect for Your Sweet Tooth
  • Ramen - Japan’s Top Late-Night Meal
  • Yokan - A Classic Sweet From Japan
  • Oyakodon - A Comfort Food

1. Sushi - The Quintessential Food of Japan

One of the most popular Japanese dishes, Sushi has carved a place for itself in global cuisine. Sushi typically means raw fish. The dish consists of a slice of raw fish served on a rectangular bed of rice called the nigiri. The bed of rice is usually seasoned with vinegar, while the raw fish can be any type, with fatty tuna being the most popular choice. Any melt-in-your-mouth fish can be an alternative.

It takes years for professional chefs to master the art of making sushi. Some of the favourite variations of this dish are makizushi, which contains nori seaweed, and inarizushi, which includes fried tofu.

  • Type of food: Non-vegetarian food is available in different flavours and textures.
  • Interesting Fact: Even though sushi has won the hearts of many across the globe and people are ready to pay more to taste the authentic dish, this Japanese food has a humble origin— Japanese street food.

2. Shabu Shabu- The Dish to Enjoy With Friends

It is a nabemono dish or a “one-pot” dish. Nabemono means “things in a pot.” Shabu-Shabu refers to the sound of the ingredients that go into making this traditional food item. The dish consists of thinly sliced meat pieces along with seasonal vegetables. The entire food item is served in a central dish containing boiling water. The pieces - veg and non-veg—cook in the boiling water, piece by piece. The authentic taste comes from the selected choices of dipping sauces.

  • Type of food: A Japanese dish that mixes the flavours of vegetables and meat pieces.
  • Interesting Fact: This dish is known to have been a part of larger gatherings and communal affairs and is often enjoyed by locals with their close-knit group of friends and family.

3. Gyoza - The Taste of Japanese Dumpling

Gyoza is the Japanese version of Chinese dumplings. It is rich in ingredients, vegetables, and ground meat like pork. The flimsy pot-sticker dough wraps green onion, ginger, garlic, cabbage, nira chives, mushrooms, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Today, different versions of this local food of Japan are available.

Interestingly, the typical gyoza is crispy on the outside as it is pan-fried. However, the inside is as juicy as a Chinese dumpling.

  • Type of food: Dumplings that contain veg and non-veg ingredients.
  • Interesting Fact: The origin of the gyoza is indeed the Chinese dumpling. During World War II, Japanese soldiers got acquainted with jiaozi, or Chinese dumplings, when they were based in China. Once they returned home, they carried the menu idea with them, and thus, the gyoza was born.

4. Tofu - Healthy Vegetarian Alternative

Tofu is a Japanese food that is extremely popular in the Western world. It is known to be a healthy food item. Also, since the basic food is vegetarian, people worldwide love it. Tofu has been an essential part of the classic Japanese cuisine for centuries. Tofu is made of coagulated soy milk, and the curd is pressed into blocks. The chunks of soy can be quite firm or delicate and can be eaten raw, cooked or fried and used for garnishing food.

  • Type of food: Vegetarian
  • Interesting Fact: Tofu is made from curdled soybeans. Soybeans are high in protein, isoflavones, and Vitamin B1, making them a healthy dietary option.

5. Tempura - Crispy Crunchy Bites

This Japanese dish is for those who love crispy and fried foods. Preparing tempura involves covering vegetables, fish, and meat in a special batter called tempura batter and deep frying it until the items become yellow and taste crunchy. The vegetables for making tempura are radishes, sweet potato, green beans, and pumpkin. For fish, prawns or other shellfish are usually used. People relish this dish with grated daikon and use tsuyu as a dip. It is served with either noodle soups or rice bowls.

  • Type of food: Non-Vegetarian
  • Interesting Fact: The typical tempura batter comprises three ingredients: eggs, cake flour, and cold water. Cold water is the key to creating a light and airy batter. The Portuguese influenced the advent of tempura.

6. Yakitori - Kebabs from Japan

Skewered grilled meat over charcoal, Yakitori is the Japanese version of Mughal kebabs. It is also a common street food in Japan and is much loved by the island's natives. Chicken is the most preferred meat for this item. You can enjoy the kebabs at leisure during mealtime or go in for snacks and a drink in the evening.

  • Type of food: Non-Vegetarian
  • Interesting Fact: Yakitori was first introduced to the Japanese during Edo. The word ‘yakitori’ means grilled bird.

7. Mochi - Perfect for Your Sweet Tooth

This one is for people who struggle to beat their craving for Japanese desserts. This dish is made from glutinous rice. It is a rice cake in which the essential ingredients are first steamed, ground, and pounded to make mocha, a sticky ball. The confectionary item is round and quite pretty appearance-wise, and it is soft. The rice cakes are sweetened by adding coconut milk and sugar.

  • Type of food: It is a popular Japanese dessert.
  • Interesting Fact: Mocha tastes best with green tea.

8. Ramen - Japan’s Top Late-Night Meal

The Japanese love the taste of egg noodles in a salty broth. It is called ramen. The truth is that the dish was imported from China. Today, the Japanese have embraced it as their own. There are four soup choices: pork bone soup or tonkatsu, salted soup, miso soup, and soy sauce soup. Places like Fukuoka love pork bone soup ramen, while in Hokkaido, the most-loved ramen soup is miso ramen.

  • Type of food: Non-vegetarian food.
  • Interesting Fact: Japan has a ramen museum celebrating the love for ramen noodles. For example, the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is one of the most popular food-themed amusement parks in Japan and the world’s first. This park has about nine eateries dedicated to ramen noodles for tourists.

9. Yokan - A Classic Sweet From Japan